Depression is a common but serious mood disorder. About 17.3 million adults in the United States had at least one major depressive episode, accounting for 7.1% of all U.S. adults and individuals aged 18-25 are most likely to have depression.
Individuals with depression may feel persistent anxious, hopeless or helpless. Depression can also cause difficulty sleeping, poor concentration and digestive disorder.
Traditional antidepressants can bring relief from many symptoms of depression, but they are often coupled with side effects. For this reason, people grow interested in finding a solution from natural remedies.
Ginseng has been long called the King of the Herbs with magical healing power, and it is known for its health benefits in increasing energy and stamina and improving longevity. In Canada, ginseng is authorized by Health Canada as an adaptogen used in Herb Medicine to help increase energy and resistance to stress and reduce mental fatigue in cases of mental stress.
The pharmacological properties of ginseng are attributed to the presence of ginsenosides, the active ingredients in ginseng. Until now, more than 100 ginsenosides have been isolated and identified by scientists, and among them, ginsenoside Rg3 is best studied and known for its wide-ranging health benefits.
Some animal studies evaluated the antidepressant properties of ginsenoside Rg3. A Chinese research team found the antidepressant-like effects of ginsenoside Rg3 in mice that promoted the hippocampal brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) signal pathway. In another animal study, ginsenoside Rg3 showed anti-depressive effects via increasing transcription factor CREB (cyclic adenosine monophosphate response element-binding protein) and promoting BDNF signaling. Both factors CREB and BDNF are associated with depression.
The results from several clinical studies also indicated the possibility of using ginseng and ginsenosides in treating depression. A clinical study published in the journal found that compared with the placebo group, postmenopausal women treated with fermented red ginseng had lower depression. This antidepressant effect might come from improved energy factors.
Another clinical study evaluating the effects of using red ginseng in postmenopausal women with climacteric syndromes also presented the positive effects of red ginseng on psychological functions. Researchers found that red ginseng improved the fatigue, insomnia and depression in postmenopausal women.
It is worth mentioning that ginsenoside Rg3 is the unique active ingredients found in the red ginseng.
More clinical studies are needed to confirm the antidepressant effects of ginseng and ginsenosides in human beings. Ginseng and ginsenosides may help some people reduce depression, but they shall not be a substitute for conventional treatment.
Always consult your doctor before taking any ginseng and ginsenoside supplements, because ginseng may cause side effects and interact with other medications in some groups.
Zhengchen You, Qi Yao, Jianhong Shen, Zhikai Gu. (2019) Antidepressant-like effects of ginsenoside Rg3 in mice via activation of the hippocampal BDNF signaling cascade. Journal of Natural Medicines 71:2, Page 367
Jiang Chen, Gen-ZheLiu, Qi Sun, Fan Zhang et al. (2018) Protective effects of ginsenoside Rg3 on TNF-α-induced human nucleus pulposus cells through inhibiting NF-κB signaling pathway. Life Sciences 216: 1, Pages 1-9
Kwang Jo Lee, Geun Eog Ji. (2014) The effect of fermented red ginseng on depression is mediated by lipids. Nutritional Neuroscience 17:1, Pages 7-15
Tode, T. , Kikuchi, Y. , Hirata, J. , Kita, T. , Nakata, H. and Nagata, I. (1999), Effect of Korean red ginseng on psychological functions in patients with severe climacteric syndromes. International Journal of Gynecology & Obstetrics, 67:169-174